Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Tenant

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! A person committed suicide in my apartment and all I got was a ghost that never stops crying.

The Tenant – 4 out of 5

A year ago, my girlfriend and I attended a screening of Army of Darkness that was hosted by the King himself; Bruce Campbell. After the film, the man with the golden chin hosted a Q&A session and, after having to endure a nonstop barrage of fans wasting their moment to ask the man a genuine question and, instead, puked out their stupidity (that was immediate struck down by Campbell’s quick wit), one person finally asked a legit question and asked what his favorite horror film was. Bruce instantly lit up and stated Roman Polanski’s film The Tenant. He gushed that the film has a terrific build up and was just a fantastic film. Since I always take recommendations—even if they technically aren’t recommendations but just a statement from an actor that I enjoy—I immediately sought out a copy of the film…and then forgot about it. Eventually, I found the movie around my house and I said, “Oh yeah, Ash’s favorite horror movie,” and I popped it in…and was surprised by the results.

It's like Rear Window...but, at one point, there's a mummy.

Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) finds an apartment that has recently been vacated thanks to the previous tenant committing suicide. In desperate need of a place to call home, Trelkovsky starts wheeling-and-dealing with the landlord and eventually settles with getting a claim on the pad. Other than the fact he is now living in the place that will now include “Last Tenant Committed Suicide” in its Craigslist ad, there’s a communal bathroom in the building and, if that doesn’t add fuel to your apartment nightmares, then you have never had the experience of living in a dorm. Then things get worse when Trelkovsky notices his apartment overlooks the bathroom and he can see everyone doing their business. 

With glasses that big, Stella should have seen her friend
was having some troubles that would have led to her
attempting suicide.
After moving in, Trelkovsky visits the previous tenant (who is still clinging to life in the hospital) and meets the woman’s friend; Stella (Isabelle Adjani). Not long after these events, Trelkovsky’s life starts to slowly make a turn for the weird as he feels he’s being bullied by some of the other tenants in the building, the landlord becomes increasingly frustrated with him for having friends over and, supposedly, women over to visit, he starts to take on the daily routine of the previous tenant and starts to see other tenants in the bathroom standing around not doing their business (like, literally, just standing in there). Paranoia quickly starts to fester and consume the man and he starts to lose his grip on reality and believe that all the others in the building are involved in some sort of plot to get him to kill himself like the previous occupant.

Was it the other tenants or Trelkovsky's friends that were the ones out to
get him?  I don't fully trust either of these men.

I’ll be honest; it took some time for me to get into the film. Shit, I was bored with the first half because it just felt like it wasn’t going anywhere and was building towards nothing. At this point, a fan who stumbles upon this review is probably getting angry and wanted to comment about how I’m an asshole with no real attention span and I will partially agree with that. While I don’t mind films taking slow and methodical approaches towards their build-up, this movie just felt like there was no build up to terror or scares or even some What the Fucks. However, I was completely wrong as the film at one point just ramps up the insanity and Trelkovsky’s spin into lunacy. It was at that point that I realized why this slow build up was needed. It really just helps you realize and understand how crazy Trelkovsky goes and seeing him jump from a kinda socially awkward quiet guy to someone who looks like he’s on the verge of rubbing his own feces on the windows because the demons told him to do it really made for something addicting to watch. Once Trelkovsky’s mind snaps, I was hooked and couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen.

Yes, couldn't take my eyes off the screen...even when those pale limbs showed up.

Roman Polanski is a pretty shitty person (rape is a terrible thing, Polanski), but he has a reputation of producing some fantastic films (Seriously, how awesome is Rosemary’s Baby?). However, his shittiness aside (which could have easily jaded my viewing of this film), the way he put together The Tenant and his own acting as the lead was awe-inspiring. The aspect I enjoyed the most was the seamless nature of Trelkovsky’s breakdown. While Polanski is doing a tremendous job with the performance, he also delivered visuals that really showed how the man’s world is currently being flipped upside down. Whether it be the skewed perspective the hallway in his building suddenly takes or the fact that a chair resting next to his bed suddenly turns into a two dimensional illusion, Polanski delivered a film that feels weird but realistically weird…if that makes sense.

Yes, just another reminder, Polanski raped a 13 year old girl.

Trelkovsky really got into his cross-dressing...he just
started bleeding from the wrong orafice.
It’s easy to make something look bat-shit insane—just ask David Lynch—and sometimes the extremely over-the-top style can be fun—just ask Tim Burton’s early career. However, Polanski delivered a film that was totally fucked up in the end but wasn’t too stylish or cartoony. This resulted in Trelkovsky’s breakdown looking and feeling real and giving an argument that maybe the dude isn’t insane and his paranoia might be real. This was emphasized thanks to that methodical, and seemingly pointless, build up that, at first, bored me. It was actually quite brilliant! The beginning of the film is of a man who really is of no consequence and then *SNAP* his mind starts to slip and you get to see a guy flip out but also seem like he’s in control. You still see that man at the beginning hiding behind the dude who starts to cross dress and hallucinate that his neighbors are playing catch with his decapitated head outside. That’s a hard balance to keep—not only from an acting perspective but from a filmmaking perspective but Polanski’s visuals and his performance really kept himself from falling over to one side or the other on this knife’s edge.

Wacky hallways aren't normal...but on LSD they are, and they're kinda fun.

While I will freely admit that the beginning of the film was hard for me to get engrossed it, I’m glad I got through it because once you hit the strange shit, the dry and monotonous opening feels so important for establishing a baseline for the levels of nuts Trelkovsky’s mind hits. I wish I would have found out about this movie awhile ago but, sometimes, late is better than never. With Polanski’s work both behind and in front of the camera, The Tenant proved to be a film that, while not exactly scary or spooky to me, was definitely incredibly interesting and attention grabbing.

Oldboy (2013)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Fuck yo' spoilers!  No fucking octopus gets eaten in this remake!

Oldboy (2013) – 3 out of 5

I’m a big fan of the original Oldboy. Just recently I finally broke down and purchased it because Netflix personally called me and said that I need to return the DVD which I had been holding onto since I became a member back in 2005. Anyway, the film is shocking and intriguing beyond belief. Even watching it now and knowing that I already am aware of the shocking reveal, the ending still has an impact on me. So, when it was revealed that Spike Lee was directing an American remake with Josh Brolin, I was interested. (I don’t have those knee-jerk reactions where I flip out because a remake is occurring.) Hell, after seeing the trailer, I was a little more interested in it. I was curious to see how Lee was going to adapt it and see what is changed in translation. The biggest thing that was lost had to have been the addictive nature that the original possessed...and an enormous lack of live octopus consuming.

Stop crying...there's no octopus on that tray.

Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is a downright terrible person. He’s a drunk, a womanizer, an absentee father and just an all-around douche bag that treats people like shit. One night, he suddenly disappears and wakes up in a hotel room-like prison cell. There he is held captive for 20 years and is forced to learn that he was blackmailed for his ex-wife’s murder and that his daughter is growing up resenting him. Doucett uses the time to get his life in order and vows that when he escapes, he will make amends to those he’s wrong, make up for a lifetime of neglect for his child and, most of all, murder the ever-loving fuck out of the man who imprisoned him. Once out, he seeks help from an old friend (Michael Imperioli) and a young woman named Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), and finally learns the identity of the man keeping him (Sharlto Copley). However, the reasons behind his imprisonment became far more terrifying than Doucett could possibly imagine…

"Yeah, I can help you look that up, Joe.  Just let me take a look on my MAC BOOK!"

Even though I’m open minded about films being remade, it’s still difficult to watch a remake without comparing it to the original. It’s insanely hard to detach yourself and watch the movie like you don’t already have fond memories (or bad memories) of what you saw first. I’ll never hate on a remake because of the fact it’s a remake but when it’s a remake of a film I love, it’s so soooo hard to not hold it up to previous standards. It’s like when you get a new partner in your life and you get irritated because they don’t do that thing you like that the last holder of your relationship status on Facebook did. You all know what I’m talking about…cutting the crust off your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. However, like I stated, after watching the trailer, I was genuinely interested in seeing what Spike Lee did with this iconic South Korean classic.

After watching the film, I kinda wish Lee would have decided to keep this long hair/beard
combo and the entire film would have been Josh Brolin running around, shitting his pants and
parking like a dog.

I’ll just cut to the chase here, Oldboy was pretty mediocre. While I didn’t find it excruciating to endure or felt like someone destroyed the integrity of the first (which, for some reason, people think happens when a remake occurs. It’s like the thought never crossed their mind that they can spend the rest of their lives just watching the original and not ever viewing the remake), the problem I had with Oldboy is that it just didn’t seem to have the heart and soul it needed to be as memorable as the original. Granted, there are some great elements to the film but for every great part, there’s a part that just doesn’t feel like it wants to put in the effort.
The longer you stare at Elizabeth Olsen in this picture, the easier it is to imagine
that she is trying to read the man's mind.

On paper, the cast seems like a great choice. You have Josh Brolin in the lead role and Sharlto Copley playing the mysterious man who locked up Joe. Both actors are performers I love; and then, if that wasn’t enough, you have Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos and those tequila commercials in the film and Samuel L. “Mother Fuckin’” Jackson around as well. Of course, you have Elizabeth Olsen and I really haven’t seen much from her to really impress me or make her a memorable performer but, that aside, the cast seems like it is just loaded with star potential.

The decision to see everything in Jackson's nose was a bold one.

Then you get the actual product…

While all these actors are tremendously talented, the movie felt like that none of the actors were really giving their all or were just being too hammy. Josh Brolin runs all over the spectrum of looking uninterested in his role and becoming painfully annoying with trying too hard or not trying hard enough. The quality he delivers literally changes from scene to scene and it really destroyed a lot of the film and its impact. For example, the big reveal (which, if you’ve seen the original, you know what I’m talking about but I won’t say it for those who are not in the know…since, apparently, spoiling the ending to a film that’s original came out ten years ago and it’s hasn’t been in the theater for many months is the seemingly worst thing you can do)—anyway, during the big reveal, Brolin hits new levels of piss poor acting and looks like he was making fun of amateur actors rather than actually going ahead and delivering a powerful performance that should mirror and enhance the punch in the nards the reveal gives the viewer. It honestly hurt the film the most.
In this scene, Brolin uses his serious face...

And I’m not even going to get into my disappointment over NOT seeing Brolin eat a live octopus. But seriously, I wanted to see it happen.
EAT IT!!!!

As painful as it is for me to admit, since I have done nothing but sing about how awesome he is since I first saw him in District 9, Sharlto Copley was cheesy as shit in the film. His character lacks the depth and insidious underbelly that belonged to the original character he was based on and comes off more like a cartoon or stock character. The Stranger is supposed to be a rich man that uses his money and power to enact revenge on the man who slighted him years previous and, instead, in this remake he becomes a caricature of a rich character complete with snooty inflection and tone. He was too silly to take seriously and it took away all threatening menace that should have been there and should have only assisted in the reveal.

He just looks like his last name should be Fizzlebottom.

For what the character is turned into, Copley performs it decently and this representation could have easily worked in a different film but it just didn’t work for this one. While it looks like Lee wanted to have a sense of odd with this film, Copley’s performance and his silly character only ended up taking away from the hardcore edge this movie should have had more of.
Maybe the film's budget was just tied-up in meticulously trimming Copley's beard.

And speaking of hardcore…

This movie gets violent and hardcore-ly so (of course, true hardcore would have been eating the damn octopus, Brolin!). The original was violent too but it never came off as gratuitous; it felt necessary for Oh Dae-Su’s journey to find out why he was imprisoned and dish out his disgruntled feelings about being a little bit peeved about it. This time around, the character of Joe doesn’t look like he’s out to find out why but rather just out to kick some ass and kill as many mother fuckers as he can that get in the way. While a part of me loved this—the part of me that finds horrid violence entertaining—another part of me felt like the violence wasn’t being used to SHOW a point but rather BE the point. It kinda felt like the writers and Spike Lee didn’t understand why Oh Dae-Su was fighting in the original or why he was being subjected to all the pain and brutality. However, the violence was still ├╝ber-wicked and entertaining.
You know those glasses have an inscription on the frames that reads, "Bad
Mother Fucker."

One thing I did dig in this remake was the minor changes that was made to the film’s narrative. While the movie, when boiled down to its most basic storytelling elements, the story didn’t change much but there were elements that were tweaked, turned or adjusted slightly that made the experience fresh. Spike Lee also did a fantastic job at adding a lot of nods-and-winks to the fans of the original that I found to be amusing. Just seeing the new elements added were just plain interesting to me and kept the film from becoming a total wash—even the alteration that was done to the ending was kinda neat (oops, does that constitute a spoiler? Since, apparently, just saying the movie exists is considered a spoiler to the internet community nowadays). While these new additions and changes were interesting and, occasionally, fun, it still didn’t make the movie anything more than a one-shot for me. And sure, Spike Lee had some great choices in camera work and I really dug the long tracking shots and how he really made the infamous hallway fight scene come to life with his dynamic camera movements but, this too, didn’t stop it from being anything more than just “meh.”

It's always nice of movie henchmen to wait their turn when fighting.

Did I think Oldboy was unwatchable? No. Was it terrible? Not really. It just didn’t have the impact the film should have and a lot of the performances were disappointing. Did this remake destroy the integrity of the original? Fuck no, that’s just stupid. Who thinks like that? Could the movie have been saved by some octopi munching? Probably not, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! At this point, I'm starting to just believe that Nebraska is just black and white and you lose all color once you cross the border.

Nebraska – 5 out of 5

I don’t know for certain why it is but I have a soft spot for films that aren’t bubbly or happy. Bittersweet, sad, even downright depressing films are often some of the best movies I’ve seen in my life. There’s a magic quality to them that comes off as more authentic and realistic than films that contain the usual “The guy gets the girl” and “The hero saves the day” happy endings Hollywood is known for (that isn't to say I hate those type of films). And when those films are able to provide bittersweet moments that push away the sadness for a glimmer of hope but still stays far away from the ridiculous “Everything is now going to be perfect for our protagonist” endings, it makes something that feels…warm and genuine rather than sappy; it’s an amazing spectacle to witness.

And now that I started this review in the cheesiest way possible, here’s the synopsis…

Nebraska is about an older, confused man named Woody Grant (Bruce Dern). Woody gets one of those “You Could Win a Million Dollars” junk mail letters that anyone else would have tossed in the garbage or thrown into the fire they keep burning in their backyards for their dead homies; however, Woody thinks it’s legit and is ready to make the trip to—you guessed it—Nebraska to collect his sweet, sexy cash. Ignoring the logic laid out in front of him by his family, Woody stops at nothing to leave. Rather than see his father hurt and hoping to pacify his idealistic dream, Woody’s son David (Will Forte) decides to drive him. Along the way, they return to Woody’s home town and, unfortunately, his family and basically the entire town, believes Woody and his sudden good fortune and now they want a taste of the action. Especially Woody’s old friend Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach), a man who feels he is entitled to some of that money because of past loans.

I added this shocked still of Stacy Keach for no reason.  Enjoy it!

There’s nothing flashy or immediately attention-grabbing about Nebraska (unless black and white grabs your attention like a firework) but, man, did I enjoy this movie. There was a stark simplicity to the film (that was enhanced by the decision to have the film in black and white) that made the movie very memorable to me and capable of resonating inside my old noodle. The film is touching without getting too sappy, it’s humorous without getting silly and it’s dry without getting boring. Nebraska seemed to ride that razor-thin line where it could have easy fallen to one side or the other that could have destroyed the entire experience but it ended up being really enjoyable for me.

Fun Fact:  Bruce Dern is such a talented actor that he was able to make himself black
and white so that they didn't have to adjust the color in post.

The film’s simplistic story was probably one of the biggest reasons it seemed to work for me. I saw a lot of familiarity with the interactions that Woody and David had to deal with when it concerns their family. The entire time I was watching it, there would be a scene where I would find myself saying, “Oh, that reminds me of my Uncle” or “Yep, my cousin would totally do that” or “That’s how I feel sometimes when I have to deal with my siblings.” While all of Woody and David’s interactions with their family and, more importantly, the greedy nature of some of the branches in their family tree may not have been the specific scenario that I could relate to with my own family, the basic structure of their back-and-forths definitely felt like how real families behave. That really had to have been the strongest thing the movie had going for it, in my opinion.

Okay...my family doesn't have as much underlying animosity...

The next strongest thing? The acting.

Another strong thing...Stacy Keach.  I heard he can bench press a Cadillac.

The film has a fantastic cast and, very surprisingly, some members of the cast were able to break away from the usual comedies that we know them from to make a film that has its drama come first and comedy come away as minor byproduct. Bruce Dern does a fantastic job as the mentally broken Woody Grant and is able to keep the focus nearly entirely about him without having to say or do that much. However, it was the performance of Will Forte that really captivated me.

I have that same face when I'm on the phone with my mother and she's telling me all
about the people she thinks I know (but don't) and is telling me how they are doing.

I think Forte is a very funny man and I really enjoy the guy but I was slightly taken back by how good he was at this very dramatic role. You really feel the frustration he’s going through as he tries to educate all the people on the fact that Woody isn’t really becoming a millionaire and you see the change in him as he goes from a guy that’s just trying to humor his elderly father to a son who really wants to connect on an emotional level. Sure, this dynamic of an offspring and their parent going on a road trip and discovering that their early animosity was just a cover for their fear of opening up to each other is pretty flippin’ common in films but Nebraska was able to take that trope and twist it from a wacky comedy to a very real feeling drama that offers up a few chuckles along the way. This was achieved thanks to a great script but also thanks to amazing acting from the cast and their ability to make the characters feel genuine and relatable. Forte really nailed this dynamic and I could see a lot of myself in him as I watched.

In fact, when I got up close to the TV screen, I magically could see my face projected
on him.

While the movie really focused mostly on the relationship between Will Forte and Bruce Dern’s characters, the rest of the cast that composed the Grant family weren’t filled by D-list nobodies to occupy space until we see Woody and David doing the dynamic duo trip again. In fact, some of the most heartwarming and amusing moments were when the entire Grant family was together and taking on their greedy family members. June Squibb was adorable as Ross Grant, Woody’s wife. The way she would lay into him about the money was very funny but it also look EXACTLY how real life couples who have been married and have been putting up with each other’s shit for too long act like.

Squibb also has a bit of a dirty mouth on her and is always talking about stuff you don't
want to hear from your aging mother...so that only added to her adorable factor.

Then you had David’s brother Ross (played by Bob Odenkirk). I’m a big fan of Odenkirk; I think the guy is super hilarious but, thanks to a show that will go down as one of the greatest things I’ve ever watched on TV (Breaking Bad), I got to see that Odenkirk is capable of being funny and being dramatic at the same time. While Sal was a little sillier than Ross Grant, you get to see that Odenkirk is capable of leveling out the funny stuff and packing more of the dramatic building blocks on top of it in Nebraska. Then, when Dern, Forte, Squibb and Odenkirk all come together for their, unfortunately, short scenes, you see a group of actors that really come off as a family that looks no different than any neighbors any of us could have.

Better call, Saul.

Everyone in this film really played their parts well and all their interactions really came off as real—whether it be the family bickering over why they’re entitled to some Benjamins or why Ed Pegram feels that he and Woody’s partnership in the past means some cheddar must come his way. Add that to the perfect blend of realistic drama and just the right of amount of lighthearted moments and a story that feels sad and depressing for most of its run but is, in reality, sorta bittersweet but very uplifting, and you have yourself a concoction for a tremendous movie. Sure the movie has a tendency to move slowly because it’s all about character and that might turn away some viewers—Hell, the fact it’s black and white might turn away some viewers—but, all the possible viewers who won’t possible view this aside, I really enjoyed Nebraska. It’s touching, sweet, sad, heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time and it really made for a film that is just moving on a simplistic level.  If you can get passed the lack of color and the fact its story doesn’t move at a breakneck pace, I'm sure everyone watching it can find something familiar to their own families.

After watching it, I'm just assuming that Nebraska and all surrounding areas actually
exist in black and white.

Cold Comes the Night

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'm trying to NOT make a dirty joke about the title right now...

Cold Comes the Night – 2 out of 5

If movies, television, books, music, print ads, the back of cereal boxes and rogue skywriters have taught me anything, it’s that a lot goes on in the night and the night does a lot of things. For example, according to this movie, the night is coming in coldly. The night is also known for doing stuff in the still of it, it apparently belongs to lovers, you can do important and secret stuff under its cover, “Afternoon Delight” teaches us that the night will always be here anyway, four dudes in makeup like to rock and roll all through it, I’ve heard that during nighttime on Saturday that it’s alright for fighting, and sometimes you can feel it in the air on nights like tonight…oh, lord! And I’m not even getting into the various “ofs” that come with certain nights; nights that include the living dead, giant bunnies, or nights that involve demons. Basically, with the night comes a lot of stuff…sometimes, that stuff is just boredom.

Look at that night...it's coming in soooo cold!

Chloe (Alice Eve) is just a simple motel operator trying to squeak a living by for herself and her daughter. She has financial troubles like nobody’s business and she carries on an ill-advised relationship with a married man/crooked cop named Billy (Logan Marshall-Green). One day, fate slaps her in the face when a hitman with failing eyesight (Bryan Cranston) checks into the motel and his driver ends up killing a prostitute that Chloe lets use of the rooms to. The biggest problem (as if losing your driver to hooker murder isn't bad enough) occurs when the hitman learns that Billy has stolen a large sum of money that he was transporting for some very bad men and now he uses Chloe as a hostage to get it back.

So...what was the point of her in her underwear in Star Trek?

Starting with the good first, Alice Eve and Bryan Cranston are fantastic in this film. Hell, I’ll admit that the only reason I watched this film in the first place was because Cranston was in it. Neither of these two failed in their department and was the only saving grace that this otherwise lifeless film had going for it. Granted, the accent Cranston uses is a little distracting and didn’t really do much to make the character more meaningful, memorable or even more interesting but it could have been a lot worse.

*Insert meth/Heisenberg/Breaking Bad reference here*

The hard part to deal with in the acting department came from Logan Marshall-Green. His role in the film is small and he only shows up here and there; for most of this, he’s not memorable but not terrible in his role either. However, it’s during the film's climax that he suddenly goes off the rails and starts taking the character of Billy into the stratosphere of crazy. It felt completely out of place for the grounded crime drama and I suddenly started to wonder if he accidentally switched scripts and was playing the wrong role because his character goes from crooked to crazy with a single scene change.  Granted, his emotional breakdown kinda/sorta has some point and merit to it but it's the way he plays the breakdown that gets distracting. The majority of the movie is spent moving at a slow pace and then all of a sudden you have a character trying to be Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker and it immediately destroyed what little entertainment I was getting from the film.

"Wanna know how I got these scars?  Er...if I had any."

Of course, it’s not like I was really that into the film to begin with…

Yep, I kinda looked like that while I was watching Cold Comes the Night.

The story seems easy enough: Dude uses girl to get drug/murder money back from bad cop so he can deliver the cash to a different breed of bad dude. The problem comes is the movie does little to make this film stand out. Oh, it tries by entering in the idea that Billy is a corrupt cop, Chloe is sleeping with Billy and Chloe needs cash bad because the State is involving themselves in her life. However, with all the trying this film does with these elements, it ultimately started to feel like they were tacked on or forgotten about and randomly brought back when the writer remembered including them. I already mentioned how Billy sort of comes and goes within the narrative (despite the fact he should have been a major player in the plot) but the problem that arises from this (and the fact that Chloe needs money really badly) is that these plot threads weren’t developed very well or just felt half-assed. Shit, even the Bryan Cranston’s character and his failing eyesight are just established and then it rarely comes into play during the film (sure, it has its place but that place should have been a lot bigger). This, ultimately, made the film feel like the crew went into production on a script that was only in its outline stage or barely out of its first draft.

Oh man...look behind her!  That night is still coming in really coldly!

Cold Comes the Night could have been passable or mildly entertaining if the film feathered out a lot of its plot elements and had some characters that were a little richer and more developed. As it stands, the film wasn’t absolutely horrible (however, Logan Marshall-Green at the end was close to making it so) but it just didn’t have that spark, that hook or special magic to make the film interesting. Sure, Alice Eve and Bryan Cranston are fantastic but they couldn’t save a film that just didn’t really offer up much from the get-go.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'll just leave this here...

Dallas Buyers Club – 5 out of 5

I’ve always enjoyed Matthew McConaughey as an actor…however, I can’t say I’ve always enjoyed his movies. During his romcom phase, I can’t say that I pushed over my own mother and any random child that got in my way in a mad dash to get to the theaters to see him play the Southern slacker who may or may not be the perfect boyfriend material for the generic female character who has no time for love because she has a career to think of but, ultimately, realizes that love is all she needs. Of course, there have always been the exceptions like seeing a bald and bearded McConaughey get devoured by a dragon or a moustached McConaughey wax philosophically about how high school girls always remain the same age while he, inevitably, gets older or a fresh face, non-facial-haired McConaughey kill demons after being trained by his father, the twister-hunting Bill Paxton. Even better now is that in the last few years McConaughey has been moving away from the romcom bits and has been taking roles that really showcase how talented he is; films like The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Bernie, Mud and, now, Dallas Buyers Club.

Damn...this might be the best facial hair McConaughey has ever sported.

A dude who loves the rodeo gets AIDS.  Surely, the people
who attend these events will be open-minded and sympathetic
to his plight.
Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club tells the tale of rodeo enthusiast/electrician Ron Woodroof (McConaughey). After his drug-happy, protection-less sex lifestyle ends up giving him the dreaded HIV virus (and in the 80s, no less. A time where it was still believed to be a “gay disease.”), Woodroof enters into a frenzy of determination to prevent the disease from killing him and aims to make it past the 30 days that the doctors told him he had. After his friends abandon him, Woodroof turns his back on a trial study being organized by the local hospital and does his own research into other medications that have not been approved by the FDA. When he see results, he starts to sell the drugs around the local gay clubs and befriends a member of the transgender community (Jared Leto).  The two work together to create something that challenges the established system of medicine and seek to do real work for those suffering from the disease. Together, they form the Dallas Buyers Club; a club that, with its membership, gets HIV/AIDS suffers the medication they need to fight the virus…but the FDA and local doctors aren’t going to allow this system to continue.

What are they talking about?  He looks like the very definition of perfect health.

Since McConaughey seems like he no longer wants to be associate with cheap, date night movies that make men everywhere believe that because they sat through the entire hour and a half, paid for the film AND the popcorn (that they briefly contemplated whether or not they were going to poke their dicks through) feels like they instantly deserve a blow job, it couldn’t have been a better move for the man who has been silently fighting a war against shirts for years. McConaughey is a really talented actor and he’s finally getting roles that showcase that. Dallas Buyers Club may be one of his best performances I’ve seen from him (until his next role comes out…come to think of it, I haven’t watched True Detective yet…).

And that face makes me want to watch it even more...

Like any talented actor about to embark on a major, fully dramatic role, McConaughey prepared the way one should…he lost a fuck ton a weight (a “fuck ton” being about 50 lbs.). I joke about the weight loss but it shows the dedication he had for the character. I mean, it’s not like he’s some sort of sprinting madman playing a German officer but completely disregarding doing a German accent.  Such a thing would look like a complete disregard for dedication.  This is the exact opposite; McConaughey looks sick and his behavior as Woodroof is easily engaging. You see and feel the fear, the loss, the anxiety and all other emotions he’s going through and it made it easy to lose myself in his performance and sucked me into the story even deeper…and the story is already several kinds of interesting.

The look of a man who pissed in your drink and is trying not to laugh as you are about to drink it.

However, this isn’t a film where you have just one actor and the rest are just alright alright alright. No, there is strong performances all around and the interactions between them is strikingly realistic and authentic feeling. Jennifer Garner plays a young doctor who, after some time, becomes invested in the work Woodroof is doing and watching her go from someone who is hesitant to be around the guy to someone who is actively seeking to see him win was quite fluid and natural looking. Of course, it helps too that the story and script were incredibly well prepared and the story itself has such a consistent pace that develops incredibly well and progressives nearly perfectly.

The person blocking the view is her husband in the Batman suit.

Other than great performances, an interesting and captivating story and the momentous feat that McConaughey was in a shirt for nearly the entire damn movie, the one thing that really captured my attention in this film was the relationship between McConaughey’s Woodroof and Jared Leto’s transgender character of Rayon. Woodroof comes off very homophobic earlier on in the picture and is heard spouting off about how AIDS is the “gay disease” (sadly, in the 80s, the AIDS epidemic was actually considered to be this…actually, a lot of primitive thinkers now still think that) but as he comes to terms with the reality of the situation, we see those homophobic feelings dissipate. This comes from the friendship and bond he forms with Rayon.

Leto makes a damn convincing woman.  I'm not saying I would hit that but...I would hit that.

Although the character of Rayon was complete made up from the film (so was Jennifer Garner’s character, for that matter), he provided that gateway to the gay community that the Woodroof character needed, as well as the catalyst for Woodroof to become more understanding of others and his determination to help those suffering like he was. There’s also a unique friendship between them that was entertaining to watch and see McConaughey and Leto unfurl during the story. Often they are antagonist towards each other in a playful manner (which is a fun detour in a dramatic film such as this) but my favorite scene involves one of Woodroof’s friends—who abandoned him because he now believed him to be a “faggot” for having AIDS—and this friend tries to be civil to Woodroof after running into him (despite the fact the friend was a complete dick to Woodroof when the man needed support the most) and, after seeing Rayon, instantly has some homophobic insulting word vomit come firing out of his mouth. Woodroof ultimately comes to Rayon’s defense and you really get to see the bond the two have. It’s a simple and easy scene but it really spoke volumes about the journey the two characters are going through and it really showcased the chemistry that Leto and McConaughey had.

Nothing against Leto but...he looks better as a woman in this movie.

Dallas Buyers Club is one of those great dramatic films that really knows how to show inner turmoil and steadfast determination. The editing and camera work really showed off the confusion, hurt and physical pain that Woodroof was going through but it was the strength of the performances that made it feel real. From a technical standpoint, this film is put together amazingly well but it was the story and the acting that really made the film something to witness. I like the direction McConaughey is taking his career and I think this one earned himself a couple of extra large pizzas…you know, to put the weight back on. Super skinny McConaughey is a little weird to look at.

Seriously...eat a pizza.  Your thin body makes your head look HUGE...but you still
probably look better without a shirt than I'll HOPE to look.

The Lego Movie

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Okay, Rev., you either review this movie or build some Lego stuff...I'll go against my better instincts and review.

The Lego Movie – 5 out of 5

Let’s cut right to it:  Lego is AWESOME!!!  They were a major part of my childhood and still remain a permanent facet in my life as an adult.  I still have all my old sets and like bringing them out of storage every now and then to take a gander at the creations I once built and, admittedly, will take them apart to see what I can make now.  Hell, even as an adult with bills and responsibility like keeping kids off my lawn, I still occasionally purchase sets to display proudly in my home—sets like my Star Wars Star Destroyer.  I can’t even hit the mall or retail stores without making sure to visit the Lego store or going to the toy aisle and staring with wide-eyed wonder at all the sets they have now and how far they’ve come since I was a kid.  The licensed sets particularly catch my fancy because so many of them are from properties I’m already obsessed with; for example, Star Wars, SpongeBob, The Lord of the Rings and now the Simpsons’ household that was just introduced.  Lego is, arguably, one of the greatest toys ever created because whether you use the instructions or just use your imagination, you make something awesome!  It’s this reason and more that I was a little more than excited when this film was announced.  Then the movie just had to go and hit my expectations and go even further beyond them…gee, thanks for being super awesome, movie!

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Hell yeah, Michelangelo is in it!!!
Also, the crash test dummy Lego guy looks like he has nipples.

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Anyone else hear "Dream Weaver" when they look
at Wyldstyle?

In the world of Lego, Emmet (Chris Pratt) is just an average guy working a construction job and trying to follow the instructions and get people to like him.  However, little does he know, the president of all things Lego; Lord Business (Will Ferrell), is tired of things not going his way and gets a hold of the ultimate weapon; The Kragle, and will soon lay waste to the world.  However, the great Master Builder Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) spoke of a prophecy where the Chosen One (called the Special), the greatest builder of all, will rise up and stop the Kragle.  Emmet, after discovering the Piece of Resistance, is on his way to be the Special but is hunted by Lord Business’ forces; forces being led by the evil Bad Cop (Liam Neeson).  However, a secret collection of Master Builders get together to protect Emmet and see him hit his destiny.  Emmet, together with the free spirit bad girl Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the iconic Batman (Will Arnett), that half cat/half unicorn Unikitty (Alison Brie), the spaceman Benny (Charlie Day), the wildest pirate in all of existence Metal Beard (Nick Offerman) and Vitruvius, set out to stop Lord Business and bring freedom to the world of Lego!

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Lord Business keeps his coffee mug close...for business purposes.

I know that just reading that synopsis makes The Lego Movie sound insane but let me assure you this…It sucks.  HA HA, just kidding, it’s flippin’ awesome!  I honestly believe that this film is as close to perfection as an animated film can get.  There was literally nothing about the film that I didn’t enjoy.  I mean it…NOTHING!  Everything about the movie is super top notch and it all comes together to make something that, in my opinion, will live on for a long time.  And if it doesn’t, I’m crushing skulls.

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Crushing skulls with that smile on my face.

From beginning to end, this movie is filled with such talent, wonder, joy, and humor that it is practically impossible for me to put one element over the other because everything from the writing, the jokes, the animation and the voice acting (just to name a few) all work together in perfect harmony…but since I have to start somewhere, I start with the voice acting…

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In Lego World, the coffee cups stare back at you with mild amusement.

A terrible cast in your animated film can instantly toss a viewer out of a movie…unless you’re a kid, maybe.  The Lego Movie handled this department incredibly because there wasn’t a single disappointing actor that wasn’t giving their all to their individual roles.  Elizabeth Banks embodied the slightly arrogant, occasionally jealous and completely focused and free-spirited (at the same time somehow) character that was Wyldstyle.  Morgan Freeman embodied the mentor character of Vitruvius.  Liam Neeson brought the growling henchmen to life as Bad Cop (and pulled triple duty as Bad Cop’s father and Bad Cop’s alter-ego Good Cop) and Chris Pratt was, 100%, the innocent Emmet who is shying away from taking on his destiny but eventually coming into his own and become the man he is suppose to be. 

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I am a big fan of Chris Pratt and I'm glad he's getting the roles he's getting.
Fun Fact:  There was no computer effects with Emmet, Pratt was literally
inside the computer playing him.  He's just that talented.

Honestly, I can’t say one actor was better than another in this film because everyone is amazing.  Will Arnett not only sounds like how Batman is stereotypically portrayed but he was able to deliver the dark voice with the humor needed for the film.  Charlie Day is as good as he always is playing the 80s spaceman.  Alison Brie is bubbly as the cat/unicorn abomination unto God; Unikitty, and Will Ferrell is hilarious and charismatic as the villain Lord Business.  And I didn’t even get to all the extra side-characters that come in and out of Emmet’s story and the actors who portrayed them.  Actors like Channing Tatum, Anthony Daniels, Dave Franco, Will Forte, Jonah Hill, Keegan-Michael Key, Shaq, Jorma Taccome…even when the character has a single line they are brought to life like they are the center stage and brought to life in a way that made the Lego world a colorful one, a fun one and, most of all, a believable one.  Well…believable in the sense that if a Lego world existed, the actors portrayed the characters in a way that it is exactly how you would think the people of such a world would act like...if that makes sense.
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I probably own at least a dozen spacemen that look just like Benny...but they
don't sound like Charlie Day.  They sound like Fran Drescher.

When you think about it, how hard must it have been to bring life to characters that are basically pieces of limited movement plastic?  That’s where the voice acting and the animation end up playing so well together…

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Arnett...a better Batman than Clooney.

Using a combination of 3D and stop-motion animation, The Lego Movie ends up being unlike anything that has come before in the world of animation.  The integration of these two elements is completely seamless and makes the entire film look like non-stop stop-motion.  It’s quite breathtaking to see the scale this film comes with and the attention to detail is awe-inspiring and oozes even more creativity in a film that is already overflowing with rich creativity...rich, savory creativity.  The nature effects being “Lego-ized” is simply incredible.  I dare you to stop your jaw from dropping when you see the Lego explosions, the Lego water, the Lego fire and the Lego smoke.  The way the animators unfolded these simple but important parts to the narrative really made the film unique and ended up creating humor and something amazing during something as simple as our heroes bobbing helplessly in the middle of a gigantic Lego ocean.

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The Lego Movie
has caused me to find nothing but disappointment in the world
around me due to the fact nothing in nature is constructed of Lego.

And then there’s the humor…

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Also the Taco Tuesdays...there's the humor and the Taco Tuesdays.

To say that The Lego Movie is funny is to put it so simple that you might as well be comparing Lego blocks to…whatever Lego rip-off you can buy at the dollar store.  The fact that this film is hysterical should really be no surprise because the writer/director team that gave us Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (and its sequel) and the surprisingly hilarious 21 Jump Street; Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, were the ones responsible for it..  These men, combined with the writers Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman (call it a hunch, but I think they’re related), ended up making a film that covered all types of comedy without resorting to an hour and a half of brick jokes or missing pieces gags.  Whether it be the sharp parody they take the direction of Batman or the absurdist bits thrown in here and there or the non sequiturs that will pop up among the dialogue that is coated in jokes and one-liners, this movie runs the entire spectrum of humor that has been invented over the years…hell, they might have even created new types of humor unseen by Earthling eyes or heard by Earthling ears. 

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Speaking of ears...how do Lego men hear?

The Lego Movie is a non-stop ride of hilarity that only slows down to make minor detours towards the heartwarming side with the characters’ travels.  Sometimes when comedies do this, it can feel tacked on and can take away from the sounds of laughter that was, just minutes ago, firing out of your word-hole like a machine gun but, thanks to incredible writing, this film is able to be extremely hilarious and be warm and sweet at the same time.  Blending these emotions so perfectly made the film an honest-to-goodness joyful experience and a film that can truly be enjoyed by the entire family.

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Morgan Freeman plays a hippie Lego man.  Nothing about that last sentence
was not awesome.

I will go as far as to say that The Lego Movie is perfect.  The animation is mind-bogglingly great and looks tremendous, the voice acting involves actors that feel like they were grown and harvested in a laboratory that got a grant to make them for the sole purpose of doing voices for The Lego Movie, the film is fantastically hilarious and isn’t too adult for children and isn’t too dumb for adults, and the story is unique, creative and filled with child-like imagination.  The film is the ultimate metaphor for the toys the film is about.  The only thing they forgot was to add in the pain one endures when you step on a brick barefoot in the dark of the night.